Local Medicine for Liver Infection

Local Medicine for Liver InfectionLocal Medicine for Liver Infection

An essential medication for liver infection has been produced locally and is available in the market, said Reza Malekzadeh, deputy minister of research at the Health Ministry.

“The domestically produced antiviral biosimilar Interferon (IFN)-based medicine has been introduced under the name ‘Sovodak’ and has high efficacy with no side effects” he said at a seminar on ‘Eliminating Hepatitis C by 2030’ held at Iran University of Medical Sciences in Tehran on Friday.

The medicine is covered by health insurance, providing a good opportunity for scaling up Hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment in Iran, IRNA reported. Chronic HCV infection is emerging as the leading cause of viral hepatitis-related liver disease.

Given the relatively young age of the HCV infected population in the country, timely intervention is necessary to reverse the rising trend.

HCV infection is a growing global health issue. Those living with chronic HCV infection are at risk of developing advanced liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

“People who inject drugs are currently the main population at risk for HCV infection in Iran,” said Malekzadeh.

The trend is in contrast to that in most other countries in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean region, where iatrogenic (relating to illness caused by medical examination or treatment) exposure drives HCV epidemics.

“Blood transfusion is another cause of the disease spread.”

HCV could emerge as the leading cause of viral hepatitis-related advanced liver disease and death in Iran if neglected. At present, there is high coverage of hepatitis B virus vaccination in infants and implementation of HBV vaccination programs among adolescents.

  Need for Comprehensive Plan

Iran is categorized as a low-HCV prevalence country, and “can achieve its target of eliminating the disease by 2030 with a comprehensive plan over the next 5-7 years and cooperation among the relevant bodies”.

The health official stressed that Sovodak should be made available and provided free to all patients. The Health Ministry should support state and private producers of the drug.

According to available official statistics, 186,500 Iranians had HCV in 2014, and if thenecessary preventive action is not taken in time, the number will reach 214,000 by 2030, Malekzadeh noted.

Iran has the lowest prevalence rate of liver diseases among regional states. There are 1.4 million people suffering from Hepatitis B and approximately 200,000 – 300,000 from Hepatitis C. However, the epidemiology of HCV is changing and the rate of the infection is increasing due to the growth in the number of injecting drug users in the society.

New treatment methods are effective in 95% of patients.

“Health conditions improve after liver transplants, but the country has the facilities to accommodate only 100 transplant patients a year, and that’s why the national programs are prioritizing prevention,” the deputy minister said.

“Elimination is well within reach, and it is the only way to support all those afflicted.”